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Up-and-coming Oklahoma musicians playing Okemah's WoodyFest
Bryon White and Gabriel Marshall started out playing in punk bands in high school.
Until they began making pilgrimages to the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, the hometown of the famed folk troubadour, that is.
“Obviously, Oklahoma's got a real rich history musically and Woody was one of the forerunners of that,” said White, who with Marshall forms the core of Norman-based Americana band The Damn Quails.
“I think Woody was one of the first people that really didn't give a damn. And I really like that, the thought that he could talk about politics and he could talk about angst and rock 'n' roll and then he could go back and write a song about a woman that was real sweet and real sultry. ... Woody was the man at that.”
The 15th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival launches Wednesday night with a concert by Arlo Guthrie, the late music icon's son, and continues through Sunday in Okemah. The festival is planned annually around Guthrie's birthday — July 14, 1912 — and with 2012 marking his centennial year, this year's WoodyFest features returning favorites like Billy Bragg and Judy Collins; regulars such as Ellis Paul, Jimmy LaFave and the Red Dirt Rangers; and first-timers Melanie, John McCutcheon and Carolyn Hester.
In addition, the WoodyFest lineup includes up-and-coming Oklahoma entertainers like Okemah-area native John Fullbright, Samantha Crain and Jesse Aycock, who have not only been influenced by Guthrie's music but also by the hometown festival that bears his name.
Marshall, 30, has attended every WoodyFest, while White, 29, is making his 12th trek to the festival. They will play Thursday their first official slot as The Damn Quails.
“We grew up at WoodyFest,” White said. “Ellis Paul, he goes there like every year and was one of my favorites and still is. Like I love that guy. I would always go down and catch his show and Don Conoscenti. Those guys have both been real big helps to me personally, just kind of lighting a fire and figuring out you don't have to be real loud to say something.”
For Fullbright, 24, WoodyFest is like a family reunion right in his neighborhood. He hails from and still lives in Bearden, which he calls an Okemah suburb. The singer-songwriter started attending the festival when he was 16.
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CURRENT LOOK ISSUE
15th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival
• Where: Various venues in Okemah
• What: Musical performances, children's activities, open mike, poetry readings, guitar workshop, fundraisers for the state chapter of the Huntington's Disease Society of America and more.
• Admission: Free.
• Parking: Free for daytime events; $15 per car evenings at the Pastures of Plenty Stage. Cost includes a festival program.
• Information: www.woodyguthrie.com.
• Fundraising concert: Arlo Guthrie will play a solo acoustic show benefiting the festival at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the newly renovated Crystal Theatre, 401 W Broadway, Okemah. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Gretchen Peters will open the show. Tickets are $25 for balcony seating and $35 for general admission; gold circle seating is sold out.